Policing the Risk of Terrorism

J. J. Baloch


Understanding the risk of terrorism is key to effective policing. for doing so let us start with the presumption that terrorists think more in advance than the cops and are smarter to keep posted and updated about the risk preventions carried out by the statutory watchdogs. Very fundamental strategy in risk management of terrorist threat is to keep reading inside the terrorist mindsets. The reflection of terrorist minds appears vividly in their narratives that mirror their priorities and their selected and possible targets as well as their ways of executing them.

Evaluating terrorist threat is of foremost importance in this regard. The available terrorist networks, their safe places to operate, their capabilities to strike and their inter groups associations guide professional law enforcement officers to make the idea about the probabilities and possibilities of their actions in store. This helps much in predicting and hence taking necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks by minimising the opportunity available due to vulnerability levels of such targets.

The levels of security and protection of the possible terrorist attacks define the vulnerability factor. For this end in view identifying the targets in your jurisdiction that are at the greatest risk of terrorist attack and, therefore, are most in need of protection could serve as the important strategic step in pre-empting the threat. It is easier in small towns but very complicated in urban areas with large populations as is the case of big cities such as Karachi and Lahore. In small towns, there might be only a few targets to attract terrorists, say, for example, the reservoir, a chemical plant, and the two or three local schools. Together with the managements of these facilities, you should be able to cover up.

After listing the vulnerabilities of the targets developing a plan to protect them from feasible threats would be inevitable. If your jurisdiction is larger, the process of identifying threats and determining priorities becomes much more challenging simply because there are so many more targets to consider and so many more threats and consequences to weigh. In these circumstances, you might want to institute a formal risk assessment of the terrorist threat as part of a policing program.

Policing terrorism risk is exceptionally technical and a job to be done in innovative ways. This state of affairs gets trickier especially when data exist to support quantitative assessments of threats and countermeasures. Seasoned cops, intelligence networks, academic research, professional associations, and journals do exist to serve the needs of the counterterrorism initiatives of the police organisations. For this job, we have our special branch, Intelligence Bureau, and other higher defence intelligence networks with vigilant community and intelligentsia in Pakistan.


In policing terrorism risk availability of required information to assess threat and vulnerabilities are more important than details of technicalities involved in it. Meaningful information in this regard can enable police to carry out a risk assessment study for catering the professional standards as well as for satisfying the immediate needs of the police department to minimise the risk of terrorism incidents to take place.

A lot of work has been done worldwide in evolving the terrorism risk assessment.  This work enables counterterrorism experts and professionals to carry out risk study, apply guidelines for identifying risk, reducing vulnerabilities, diluting threat and fortifying security of targets identified.

When police organisations successfully identify the most vulnerable and possible targets in their jurisdictions they should go by systematic way to ensure the security of targets by hardening it. Seven steps are suggested to thwart the risk of terrorist attack.

“Identify the people and assets at risk for each target.” By people, we mean all enterprising people in neighbouring communities of your jurisdiction. By property, it refers to buildings and intangible assets such as intellectual property. In networks, it includes all systems, infrastructure, and equipment associated with data, telecommunications, and computer processing. Information includes various types of confidential and proprietary data.

Specify the types of attack and vulnerabilities. Terrorist attacks can come in many forms such as truck bombs, hostage takings, shootings and for each facility that is at risk the police should try to identify the form of attack to which it is vulnerable. The vulnerability analysis should take into consideration anything that might be taken advantage of carrying out an attack. Specifying vulnerabilities point to the weaknesses and enables to develop countermeasure model.

“Estimate the probability of each form of attack.” It refers to total guesswork which helps in ranking the forms of attack but hardly establishes their likelihood. For example, a reservoir is more likely to be contaminated than it is to be attacked with bombs and similar other risks that escape the countermeasure focus.


“Determine the impact of an attack.” Determining the likely impact of each form of attack for each target is a difficult task. It is hard to measure fearfulness as well as the exactness in death toll and socio-political breakdown so caused. Equally intricate is estimating the property losses, disruption to everyday life, rescue needs and recovery costs.

“Develop options to mitigate risks.” Laborious it is to identify options for preventing risk and mitigating losses. The passive acceptance of the risk through a range of security options including installing equipment and hardware; altering policies, procedures, and management practices, and hiring and training security staff.

“Study the feasibility of implementing your options.” The practical strategies should receive thorough assessment at every stage. Equally important is whether the strategy will interfere substantially with the operation of the enterprise and will have higher financial costs. The challenge is to find a balance between a sound security strategy and the operational needs of the enterprise, as well as the impact on the socio-economic life of the people affected by the security program so developed to prevent the risk of terrorism.

“Perform a cost-benefit analysis.” In this final step, consider the costs and benefits of a given security strategy. Determine both the costs of implementing a strategy, for example financial, managerial, social, environmental and the various benefits, not simply reducing the harms that might result from an attack, but also other benefits, such as reducing the risk of crime.

However, in Pakistan it is not the only problem as to  ‘what and how’ the law enforcers should do to police the risk of terrorism but very fundamental dilemma is “who” will carry out such studies as well as from ‘where’ the police departments will get finances for such costly and lengthy tasks in an environments where short-lived, temporary, fast, and cheap Counter-terror measures make lethal and the quirkiest of countermeasures for terrorist threat. Policy research in Pakistan has fallen a beautiful victim to a bureaucratic boredom, an academic neglect and a political indifference.

The writer is a policing educator and practitioner


ASIS International, General Security Risk Assessment. An ASIS International Guideline. Alexandria, Virginia, 2003.

Read More: Department of Homeland Security, National Infrastructure Protection Plan. Washington, D.C., 2006. http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/NIPP_Plan.pdf

Dewar, James A. Assumption-Based Planning: A Tool for Reducing Avoidable Surprises. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


Author: PublicPolicyInsights

With MSc Criminal Justice Policy from London School of Economics, London, UK, J. J Baloch has 20 years of work experience. He has worked in National Bank of Pakistan as officer grade 2 from 1995 to 2000. From 2000 till date He is working at Police Service of Pakistan. As an author he has published three books: Introduction to sociology, 2000; On the Art of Writing Essays, 2016; and The Power of Social Media & Policing Challenges, 2016. On 17 March 2017 J.J. Baloch is launching his first novel: "Whiter Than White: The Daughter of The Land of Pure" which is being published by Matador publication from the UK. Besides this, he regularly blogs on Google, Facebook. He also writes articles in English newspaper Dawn and also in some other magazines.

One thought on “Policing the Risk of Terrorism”

  1. General Zia, a military dictator, by interfering in Afghanistan on the name of so called jihad bequeathed terrorism to the current generation of Pakistan and General Musharaf further strengthened it. Terrorism is indeed the gift of dictatorship in Pakistan. And now it has been the Frankenstein’s monster and a mighty dinosaur to be subdued. Not only this but also our military bureaucracy on the name of Kashmir jihad by persistently interfering in the territorial sovereignty of the neighbour country is adding fuel to the fire of terrorism as it is a natural corollary and as per Newton’s third law of motion.
    The terrorists are a few and in minuscule number playing as puppets either on the name of religion and sect or are hired by the dint of wherewithal as jihadi organisations are generously funded or patronized by a few countries and non state actors. We need to address and eradicate the sources of extremism and fundamentalism in our society by education, employment, sound economy, dispensation of justice and rule of law as compared to fight against terrorists. As we need to address terrorism more seriously then go for the hunt of terrorists. The need of the hour is to recognise local facilitators by including them in IVth Schedule with new legislation, codification and SOPs to monitor them and restricting them in their illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional activities to harbour terrorism and sectarianism. We need to change our perfunctory and mechanical attitude in case of dealing with these monsters of IVth Schedule by being strict and sterner to them as they are the very source of destruction and they are the one who are adding and abetting the terrorism in our society. Once the diease is diagnosed we need to cure the pathogenic cause of the disease or to amputate the limb without further delay or discussion.


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